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Whether it’s escaping chilly winter temps or enjoying the summertime heat, Americans love to flock to the beach year-round. It’s the most popular type of vacation for U.S. adults.
After researching and sometimes traveling many miles to get to a beautiful beach, it can be a huge bummer to find the sand packed with others who had the same idea. There’s hardly anything relaxing about fighting for a sliver of sand when people are crammed shoulder to shoulder like sardines.
To help travelers avoid the most crowded coasts, the team at Florida Panhandle did some research. In October, the Florida-based vacation rental company analyzed 450 of the most popular beaches in the U.S. to find out the 10 with the highest proportion of visitor reviews mentioning how “busy” they are.
As expected, warm-weather vacation hotspots like Hawaii, California and Florida had multiple coastlines making the list.
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“In the heart of summer, America’s top beaches become bustling hubs of activity, promoting tourism from both far and wide,” David Angotti, CEO of Florida Panhandle, told USA TODAY in an email.
“Despite Hawaii’s Waikiki Beach receiving the most ‘busy’ complaints, avid beachgoers aren’t put off. The coastal hit continues to bring in over four million visitors each year and shows no sign of slowing down. And who can blame them?”
Although these shorelines rightfully earned their popular reputation for their natural beauty, people looking for a serene beach retreat should probably steer clear of them.
Check out the 10 most crowded beaches in the U.S. below.
1. Waikiki Beach, Hawaii
With the majority of Honolulu resorts lining this gentle and accessible shoreline, it’s no wonder Waikiki Beach scored the title of the most crowded beach in the nation. The bustling beach, which provides beach-friendly temperatures all year, had 13.27% of its tourist reviews talk about how busy it is.
2. Manatee Public Beach, Florida
Located in Holmes Beach, Florida, the 7-acre-long Manatee Public Beach had the second highest proportion of reviews talking about its crowds, at 9%. Locals and tourists alike enjoy its warm water, sugary sand and beachside facilities – if they can snag a parking spot, that is.
3. Golden Gardens Park, Washington
This wide sandy beach in Seattle is beloved for having it all: hiking trails, sandy beaches, a fishing pier and gorgeous views of the Puget Sound and Olympic Mountains. Unfortunately, that means it’s usually packed with people, too. The beach had 8.05% of its reviews mentioning it as a crowded destination.
4. Main Beach, California
In Southern California’s Laguna Beach is the iconic Main Beach, which has been featured in many movies and television shows. The energetic shoreline offers basketball and volleyball courts, a grassy lawn, and a boardwalk for its many visitors. Often regarded as a must-visit, this beach had 7.29% of its reviews featuring complaints of how busy it is.
5. Arroyo Burro County Beach Park, California
Nestled under bluffs and along palm trees, Arroyo Burro County Beach Park in Santa Barbara, California, offers swimming, surfing, paddleboarding, and more to make beachgoers – and their pups – happy. The picturesque beach is often nearly as crowded as Laguna’s Main Beach, with 7.08% of its reviewers saying so.
6. Mission Beach, California
Arguably the most popular beach in San Diego, the one-mile-long Mission Beach can keep its visitors busy all day. From exploring its bustling boardwalk to surfing beginner-friendly waves, Mission Beach draws in large crowds. Although vibrant, Mission Beach is hardly serene. On Tripadvisor, 6.96% of its reviews mentioned how busy it is.
7. Magic Sands, Hawaii
This tiny crescent of sand is one of the best spots to post up on when in Kailua-Kona on Hawaii Island – minus the crowds, which 6.72% of its reviewers mention. In the summertime, the water is welcoming to most swimmers but can become rough during winter swells. Just south of the beach is Laaloa, a sacred area rich with ancient Hawaiian cultural sites.
8. Moonlight State Beach, California
The small beach town of Encinitas is home to Moonlight State Beach, which earned its name from the midnight picnics that locals used to host during the early 1900s. People enjoy the cliffside shoreline for its fun surf, picnic areas, and easy access for handicapped beachgoers. On Tripadvisor, 6.66% of its reviews said it was a busy spot.
9. Silver Beach County Park, Michigan
Located at the mouth of the St. Joseph River in Michigan, Silver Beach County Park is often regarded as the most popular beach in the town of St. Joseph – and 6.49% of its reviews on Tripadvisor agree. The wide beach welcomes swimmers, volleyball players and fishers, especially during the summertime.
10. Clearwater Beach, Florida
With turquoise waters and white sand, Clearwater Beach definitely deserves its name – and the title of the ‘Best Beach in the South’ by USA TODAY’s 10Best. Many families enjoy frolicking in its calm waters and massive playground below Pier 60. However, people can also expect large crowds, as 6.35% of the beach’s Tripadvisor reviews say it’s quite crowded.
Kathleen Wong is a travel reporter for USA TODAY based in Hawaii. You can reach her at [email protected].